Recently, I read about a local barber who said he was influenced to begin his business by a quote he read from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., the Boston-based physician, professor, lecturer, poet and author who lived most of the 1800s (1809-94).
Curious about what a 19th Century figure wrote to influence a 21st Century barber, I explored a bit more about Holmes and found a remarkable man who had a remarkable way with words that often served to inspire many … in many different fields. While writing wasn't his primary livelihood – he was a physician after all – writers like Emerson, Thoreau and Longfellow hung out with him and acclaimed him as one of the best writers of their day.
He made many “re-quotable” statements, a key one being the effect books had on him. “Life-transforming ideas have always come to me through books,” Holmes said. “The best of a book is not the thought which it contains, but the thought which it suggests; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts.”
On our recent trek across the country we took along one of Tess Gerritsen’s books on tape – The Bone Garden – featuring Holmes as a young medical student helping the protagonist solve a series of gruesome murders in the Boston area. Having just “heard” that story combined with the story about the barber citing Holmes as his inspiration was reason enough for me to write about him today.
Oh, and that Holmes’ quote that inspired our local barber: “Many people die with their music still in them. Too often it is because they are ALWAYS getting ready to live. And, before they know it time runs out.”
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